Proposed Regulation Aims to Gut Asylum Protections in U.S.

6/25/2020 UPDATE:    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that arriving immigrants who seek asylum in “expedited removal” proceedings – including virtually all asylum seekers arriving without visas via the southern border  – cannot get judicial review of a negative “credible fear” decision preventing them from applying for asylum.    The proposed rule discussed below would make it much harder than under present law to pass a “credible fear” review, and this Supreme Court ruling denying judicial review makes it even more critical to oppose the proposed rule’s reductions in due process.

The administration is proposing a dramatic rewrite of the nation’s asylum rules.  The proposed regulations were published on June 15, 2020, with the deadline for public comment on July 15, 2020.

The proposed rule not only codifies many of the actions already taken at the southern border through executive action, but also makes additional changes that drastically constrict both eligibility for asylum and the application process.

Taken together, these changes all but  obliterate the U.S. commitment, since acceding to the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1970, and the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980, allowing those fleeing past or feared future persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group to have a meaningful opportunity, regardless of how they arrive in the U.S., to seek protection.

Most parts of the proposed rule would apply to asylum cases already pending before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or in the immigration court system.  This means that the new rule would apply to the more than 6000 asylum seekers in Maine with pending applications who are full members of our communities and workforce.

The proposed rule speaks often about “efficiency,” with rarely a nod to fairness or due process.  In the interest of “efficiency,” among other changes, it proposes to make anyone who entered the U.S. without permission (such as most who entered via the southern border) ineligible for asylum.  Also ineligible would be those who failed to apply for asylum in any country they transited through (even changing flights) on their way to the U.S.

Just those two changes alone would result in denials of the asylum applications of virtually all of Maine’s asylum seekers with pending cases, unless they can meet a high burden to show that they should be treated as an exception.

Many of Maine’s asylum seekers have had asylum applications pending in backlogs for five, six, seven years and even longer.  During that time they have put down roots, had U.S. citizen children, and have become our neighbors, friends, volunteers, employees, coworkers, and in some cases, our employers.

The proposed rule would stack the deck and make it virtually impossible for those who indeed fled their countries and sought asylum to protect their lives to win their cases and remain in the U.S.   Losing over 6000 people from Maine’s communities and workforce would have a devastating impact not only on their safety, but on Maine. 

This piece in The Hill  explains more about the proposed asylum regulation and how it is just a further step in the administration’s many assaults on U.S. asylum laws.   This regulation must be vigorously opposed, and surely will be challenged in court should it be finalized.

MeBIC will submit a public comment opposing the regulation.  If your business would like help to submit a comment in opposition, please contact us, or find talking points that you can use in your comment here.